January 17, 2020
Manchester United will travel to Anfield to take on Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. It will be the second match in the league between the two teams this season. Back in October at Old Trafford, United earned a 1-1 draw and still to this day are the only team in the league to take points off Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten in the league in their last 38 matches, winning 33 and drawing just five.
United should be motivated for this match. Granted, with injuries, they will not have their best team on the pitch but the best one they can field at this time. Winning the last two matches will be good motivation for the squad but playing at Anfield should motivate them more, especially after the 3-1 defeat in their last match there. Also, the fact that Liverpool could win the league should set something off in their guts, driving them to get a result at any cost on Sunday. This is the United that I want to see emerge from the Anfield tunnel.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Liverpool in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish number one kept a clean sheet in his last game which will give him confidence ahead of the biggest match of 2020. United being the only team to take points off Liverpool in the Premier League will also be a boost for this match. United will need to be on top of their game in order to get a result at Anfield but if they look back to their last visit, which ended in a 3-1 defeat losing Jose Mourinho his job, they should find enough to motivate them for this match. The fact they are leading in the league by as many points as they are should be motivation alone.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
The defence this season is the best defence, statistically, in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era with them conceding just ten shots on goal, on average per match. Harry Maguire, the new club captain is part of this with his assured presence in the centre of defence being a defining factor. If you compare his individual stats to those of Virgil van Dijk, you will also see just how much for former Sheffield United and Leicester City defender has done. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will keep his place as what he has offered this season has been great, considering the dire times endured and Brandon Williams will play on the other flank. Victor Lindelof may start this game but the return of Eric Bailly could happen in this match.
Midfield: Fred, Nemanja Matic
The midfield is at barebones still with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay on the sidelines through injury. Fred has raised his game this season which has come with an extended period in the starting XI due to injuries. Some will criticise him, others will praise him – he just cannot win. He might not be of the ilk of Paul Scholes, Roy Keane of Bryan Robson but he’s what United have right now and have to accept. Nemanja Matic has been a regular starter in the past six matches, starting five of them. He did well against Wolves on Wednesday evening and may have to be on top form to keep Liverpool at bay. United have nobody else to rely on right now, although Tim Fosu-Mensah could be close to a return.
Attacking Midfielders: Daniel James, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford came off the bench against Wolves on Wednesday evening and had to come off 16 minutes later through injury. It looked like a bad one and despite Solskjaer suggesting that he does not know if he will play, I reckon he will start in this game and probably sit out for a period of time through injury, which will be problematic for the club. Daniel James will probably start on the right despite his poor stats in recent matches with his crosses going astray and his miss against Wolves. Juan Mata may be trusted in the middle of the three behind the striker based on his last two performances where he scored one goal and assist two – definitely a better fit than Jesse Lingard in this position.
Striker: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman will lead the line against Liverpool, the team he came back from injury again back in October. He had an off game against Wolves this week and will need to be on top form to offer anything for his club against the Premier League leaders. 11 goals and three assists for him this season is a good rate of goals and assists but he needs to be doing so much better. In the summer, if not in January, he may face a battle for this position as United will be seeking to bring in another striker to set the pace in the team. Martial should put the work in early and show that he’s the man to build around.
Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Victor Lindelof, Diogo Dalot; Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Tim Fosu-Mensah; Mason Greenwood
United will need something on the bench to keep their fight against Liverpool going. Sergio Romero will return to the bench after keeping a clean sheet against Wolves. I think Victor Lindelof and Diogo Dalot will be the defensive options from the bench with Tim Fosu-Mensah, who play as a defensive midfielder for the U23s last week being another option in both areas. Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira could be the midfield options with Mason Greenwood the attacking option from the bench, perhaps using his pace and ability late in the game, if he comes on early enough to get up to speed with the game.